Brief history of news business profits

The Post, the sale and the news business – The Washington Post

People ask me about what will become of journalism. (It will endure or the democracy crumbles, I reply.) In reflecting on the sale of The Washington Post, long-time newsman Walter Pincus gives a condensed history of news profits. (See the link above.)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has bought the paper, much like the wealthy Eugene Meyer bought it in 1933. Meyer didn’t see a profit for 20 years. Pincus explains:

Like most owners of local U.S. newspapers, Meyer was already successful and never saw newspaper ownership as a money-maker. Instead, as [Philip] Graham put it, the family thought of the newspaper as a public utility and if it ever made as much as 7 percent on its gross income, it would be deemed a success.

Then the acquisition of television and radio stations and the conglomeration of media companies into chains sent profits to the 25 percent range and family companies went public and were beholden to stockholders rather than only rich families.

Now the publicly held Post has sold once again to a rich man, and maybe he’ll see the news organization as a public good. Journalism’s duty is to tell the truth and serve the public. We often fail. But as we go, so goes the democracy.

Pincus’ column is worth reading for the history in the first take, but the second half bears a debatable supermarket metaphor and is weak on the past decade. Pincus has been at the Post more than 50 years. He’s seen plenty.

Washinton Post sale and Freedom of the Press

The Washington Post will be sold to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. (Link goes to photo gallery but starts with an advertisement.) Newspapers always have been owned by wealthy people. The old First Amendment joke was “The press is free to those who own one!” Free to very few people. Now that even I can “own” this blog press, the number of voices is great. That, coupled with some big media with funds to investigate and pursue stories that challenge special interests, could make for a robust public square. But the people have to complete the loop. A free press must have a responsive public.

Paraphrase falls short

King’s words, all of them, to be restored – The Washington Post.

The Post story explains that the inscription on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial will be edited — a difficult job in granite.

If you listen to the entire sermon titled “The Drum Major Instinct,” you hear how insufficient the inscribed paraphrase is to capture the extended metaphor of the sermon. The other problem is point of view: King is saying what he would have others say about him; the inscription makes it sound as though he were saying those  words about himself. It’s all clear if you listen to the sermon.

What other words from the sermon might have been used for the memorial inscription?